Tag: HBCU Baseball

Black Kids Dream Of Playing HBCU Baseball

By Michael May 3, 2021 2

While the Face of Black College Baseball Grows Whiter and Whiter

When I was a high schooler in Macon, Georgia, I dreamed of playing collegiate baseball at Georgia Tech in Atlanta during the early days of school desegregation. In 1969, the year I graduated from the majority white high school that I had integrated four years earlier, there were no Black American baseball players on the Georgia Tech baseball team. read more

Braves’ Garr-Lucas HBCU Baseball Classic Is A Hit

By Michael March 15, 2021 0

HBCU Alumni Proud of National Spotlight

HBCU Alumni Proud of National Spotlight

Marie Duval did not attend an HBCU; she received her educational experience at a predominately white institution, Mercer University, a private Baptist-supported school in Macon, Georgia, her hometown. The other half of the Duval family, Steve Duval, attended two HBCUs, Hampton University and Tuskegee University. The Duvals traveled 150 miles to witness a rare national spotlight shine on Black college baseball. read more

Showcasing Black Baseball Talent Amid a Pandemic

By Michael October 7, 2020 0

There is a myth that Black youngsters are not playing baseball these days. If you look at Major League Baseball (MLB) rosters and most Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), it is easy to come away with that impression. Around eight percent of professional baseball players are Black Americans. This number is down from approximately 30 percent in the late 1970s, thirty years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier that kept Black baseball players off major league rosters. read more

HBCU Baseball Showcase Quickly Becoming Premier Event

By Michael November 5, 2018 0

Under patches of gray in an otherwise blue sky, on a baseball diamond in urgent need to recover from a rain storm which swept through north Georgia the day before, assembled more than 100 Black high school baseball players. Some of them traveled a few blocks to the baseball field at Westlake High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Many of them traveled several hundred miles. read more

MVP Baseball Tourney Brings Out Pro Scouts

By Michael July 21, 2018 0

It started out 16 years ago as a national Black World Series for high school baseball players. A national promoter thought Atlanta was the perfect place to host such an event. The first year was a big success.

Two young men from that showcase, Jason Heywood and Jeremy Beckham were signed to professional contracts. Heywood signed with the Atlanta Braves. While Beckham signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Later, a group of Black baseball coaches in Dekalb County were asked to host an annual tournament. It has turned into fertile soil for professional scouts. Five players from last year’s MVP competition were drafted this year during the June draft.

Each year professional scouts along with a strong contingent of Black college baseball coaches flock to the MVP Tournament to view the Black baseball talent in the country.

This year several major league ball clubs have scouts at the tournament. There are representatives from the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Parades, Texas Rangers and the Colorado Rockies. Each of these clubs have drafted kids from the MVP showcase who made their way up to the big leagues.

“Buck ” Buchanan, a longtime successful Georgia high school baseball coach and for the past 12 years a scout for the Atlanta Braves sums it up this way:

“The MVP Tournament gives me an opportunity to see a lot of players in one spot that I would not ordinarily see. I’m based in the Southeast and would not get a chance to see a kid from California, or Chicago play.”

Buchanan coached former major league outfielder Jeff Francour in high school. He said he does not like to use the term special in describing the talents of a baseball player, but he knew when he first saw Francour in the ninth grade, that he brought a little something extra to the game that his teammates did not have.

“When scouting these kids, I first look to the middle of the field to find the stronger players and then fan out from there to pick up tendencies from the other players,” Buchanan said.

Asked what had he seen so far Buchanan said, “The kids are playing with a lot of passion. They all have talent or they would not be here. At the end of the day it is hard to project what a 19 year old will be in five years but that is sort of what my job is all about.”

Along with Buchanan, the Braves also sent Hank Aaron, Jr. out to scout the kids. Aaron is moving up in the scouting ranks having successfully scouted and signed Ray Hernandez out of Alabama State University.

Greg “Goody” Goodwin, the MVP President said, “It’s all about helping the kids to get their education. I’m so proud of our volunteer staff that make this tournament happen every year.”

Play concludes today with the crowning of an MVP Champion at the Georgia State Baseball Complex and a banquet where former major league players will talk with the kids about the road to college and the big league.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

 

 

HBCU Baseball Coaches Flock To MVP Tourney

By Michael July 20, 2018 0

Now that college baseball has crowned champions in all divisions of play, college coaches are roaming the countryside. They are in search of the next crop of baseball talent that can place their baseball programs on the map or to keep them on their winning paths.

Each July, Mentoring Viable Prospects (MVP) host a premiere showcase of Black baseball talent. Teams come from across the United States to display their talent to college coaches and professional scouts.

This year teams from California, North Carolina, Detroit, Florida, Virginia, Chicago, Atlanta and Texas will compete for the MVP crown. But the real winner will be all the the young players who have a chance to show what they can do.

Most youth league coaches today will tell you that the goal is not to produce professional athletes. To a man, coaches will tell you the goal is to prepare their young men for a college education.

This year, as in previous years, coaches from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are in attendance.

“I like to get here each year or at least have someone from my staff here to scout the talent,” said Jose’ Vazquez, Head  Baseball Coach at Alabama State University.

Vazquez heads a Division 1 program. Alabama State plays in the highly competitive Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC). This past season his squad won the East Conference title.

However, they finished third in the conference tournament behind runner-up Grambling and conference champions Texas Southern University.

After watching Chicago defeat Virginia 5-2, Vazquez said, “It’s kinda of hard to find the arms at this level, but I see some good position players on the field right now.”

Vazquez needs to plug a few holds as he lost his third baseman Ray Hernandez to the Atlanta Braves.

The SWAC is well represented. In addition to Vazquez, Auntwon Riggins, Head Coach, Prairie View A & M University, is front and center. He meticulously makes mental notes of players tendencies. Likely these notes will end up in the color coded notebook he keeps on players and coaches.

Tristan Toorie, Alcorn State University, rounds out the SWAC contingent.

Representing the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) is Danny Barnes, Assistant Baseball Coach at Tuskegee University. Representing the Independents is Claflin College James Randall.

In attendance from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and fresh off an appearance in the NCAA Division 1 Regional Baseball Playoff is North Carolina A & T University Head Baseball Coach Ben Hall.

The college coaches are here and the kids are playing their hearts out. Action runs through July 21st at the Georgia State University Baseball Field.

 

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

 

 

SIAC Baseball Tourney Offers Life Lessons

By Michael May 8, 2018 0

On May 4, at the SIAC Baseball Tournament, my alma mater,Tuskegee University, was preparing to play a baseball game that  would put them in position to play in the championship game, if they won.

A Tuskegee player ran pass me and said, “Mr. Harvey, you know anything about this.”

I smiled and replied, “Yeah, I’ve been here before.”

He laughed and replied, “No, you don’t know anything about this.”

Little did he know that almost 45 years to the day, May 5, 1973, I had a similar date with destiny.

My Tuskegee teammates and I had already won the 1973 SIAC Baseball Championship by virtue of finishing first in the conference. We did not have a separate baseball tournament to decide the conference champion. In that day, there were no automatic NCAA bids for HBCU conference baseball champions. So in order to strengthen our chances of receiving an NCAA bid, Jim Martin, our coach, convinced the conference to host an All-Star game.

The All-Star game was played in Herndon Stadium on the campus of Morris Brown College in Atlanta. Herndon Stadium was the site of many Negro League games and the venue where Jackie Robinson would bring in a troupe of Negro major league players to play white major leaguers during the off season in the 1950s.

This is the only All-Star Baseball game the SIAC has ever held.

Since, we were the conference champions, we were pitted against the SIAC All-Stars. They were led by future hall of famer Andre Dawson. We countered with future major leaguer Roy Lee Jackson and gifted players like Richard “Buck” Shaw, Curtis Crump, Charles Allen and of course, that skinny kid, who ran real fast and read all those books on the team’s road trips.

Early in the game, I stole second base on the All-Star catcher from Morehouse, and scored what turned out to be the winning run.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, the All-Stars had runners on first and third with two outs, the next batter hit a fly ball to right field where I was playing, as the ball approached me, I slipped on some dried grass cuttings, but maintained my balance to make a difficult play look routine.

Tuskegee 2, SIAC All-Stars 1. Yes, young man, I know what it is like to successfully compete on a high level. Our team went on to compete in the NCAA Eastern Regional that year which was held in Anniston, Alabama at Jacksonville State University.

And like the 2018 Tuskegee team, our season came to an end on a ball hit down the right field line. Everyone in the ballpark believed the ball Steve Duval hit traveled fair over the fence in right for a home run that would have tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Everyone except the umpire. He called the ball foul. Duval would eventually foul off 12 pitches before striking out to end a 25-7 season and my collegiate baseball career.

But unlike the 2018 version of the Golden Tigers, neither our coaches nor our fans shouted insults to the umpires. We left the park that day knowing we had played our best. We accepted the loss as another of life’s lessons on perseverance.

Yes, young man, I know something about all this.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

HBCU Showcase Brings Out Black Kids, Pro Scouts and College Coaches

By Michael November 4, 2017 2

When Chip Lawrence, a former minor leaguer and current National Scouting Supervisor with the Padres.ended his playing career; he wanted to give back to Black kids who shared his passion for baseball. Eight years ago, he started putting together baseball showcase events.

Three years ago, Lawrence, who works as a scout for the San Diego Padres, incorporated his dream into the Pro Youth Foundation. He has narrowed his focus to providing an opportunity for Black young men to advance their education via a historical Black College and University experience.

This weekend, Lawrence is hosting the HBCU/ALL COLLEGE BASEBALL SHOWCASE, at WestLake High School in Atlanta, Georgia. The showcase is a two day event which will see 80 kids display their skills on Saturday and a fresh 80 on Sunday. Players from as far away as North Carolina and Florida came to audition for college scholarships.

Austin Davis, the fastest athlete in the Saturday group, ran the 60 yard dash in 6.4 seconds, well under the 6.7 standard for elite baseball runners. Davis lives in Florida, but wanted to showcase his skills to Black College Baseball coaches.

Samuel Fleming, a 15 year old shortstop at North Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, drove up with his father to participate in the showcase. He has a 4.3 grade point average, which will give him an edge in obtaining an offer because HBCUs traditionally have one to three baseball scholarships. They resort to academic scholarships and favor the Black baseball player who can earn the academic money through their university.

Fleming has three more years in high school before he is eligible to be considered for a scholarship. His dad, Sly Fleming said, “I brought him to this showcase now, because baseball is one of those things that the more repetition that you have the better you get. I wanted him to see what the competition will be like when he is a senior.”

A strong supporter of the showcase is former Atlanta Braves centerfielder, Marquis Grissom. He established the Marquis Grissom Foundation which teaches baseball skills and also helps prepare young men for college and for careers in corporate America.

“In high school I knew what I wanted to do,” Grissom said. “I wanted to give back to my community, so when I retired from baseball, I started coaching these young men. I’m not out to make baseball players out of them, but I want to help them be successful in society.”

Grissom’s foundation takes his young baseball players to visit with many of the Fortune 500 companies in the Atlanta area. He is planning a trip to the Google facility in California.

“I’d like to take 36 young men on a tour of the Google headquarters. This will be a good experience for them,” Grissom said.

He knows the importance of having a college education. He grew up in an area in College Park known as Red Oak, not the best area to grow up in College Park. When he graduated from high school he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. He was offered a $25,000 signing bonus. His parents wanted him to go to college.

“It was hard to turn down $25,000. We didn’t have any running water, air conditioner or electric heat in the house. But my parents wanted me to get my education and I’m glad they insisted that I go to college,” Grissom said.

He did not know how he would pay for college, but when you are living right the universe tends to solve all mysteries out of the blue. During a baseball game at Lakeshore High School, Grissom hit a ball out of the park. The late Bob Lucas was walking on the school track. The ball nearly hit him. Lucas walked over to the baseball park and asked who hit the ball. Everybody pointed towards Grissom.

“Coach Lucas told me, ‘Son you’re going to FAMU to play baseball,'” Grissom said.

“Coach Lucas put me in his car and drove me home. He talked to my parents and I was enrolled in school at Florida A&M University,” he said.

Grissom has an additional interest in the showcase this year. His brother Antonio Grissom was recently named the head baseball coach at Morehouse College.

Antonio Grissom said, “The showcase is a good thing. It gives me a chance to see what the upcoming talent looks like as I get the Morehouse program back on track.”

Coach Grissom believes “The House” will have a much improved team this year.  Former Atlanta Braves pitcher Marvin Freeman will coach the pitchers.

Most of the schools with coaches present were members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with representatives from Morehouse, Clark-Atlanta, LeMoyne-Owens, Kentucky State and Lane College. Also in attendance were coaches from Southern, Jackson State, Selma University, Voorhees College, Stillman, and Hillsboro Community College.

In addition to Lawrence, several other major league franchises had scouts at the showcase. Lenny Webster, who retired from the big league in 2000 was present and taking a look at the talent.

Webster said that it was his observation that Major League Baseball is on track to improve the numbers of African American players in the league and that he is heartened by the steps he sees coming out of the commissioner’s office.

Baltimore Orioles scout Arthur McConnehead, said that the Orioles who have only two Blacks players were strongly committed to increasing the numbers of African players in their organization within the next three years. He rattled off the names of eight Blacks in their farm system who should be making the big club in the near future.

“Improving the numbers in the league is a good goal, but today it’s all about getting them in college,” Lawrence said.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

 

 

Andres Castillo Grambling Catcher Dies in Fatal Accident

By Michael June 29, 2017 0

Andres Castillo described as the life of the Grambling clubhouse by players and coaches was involved in a tragic motorcycle accident on June 23 in Tampa, Florida. Castillo played catcher for the Tigers during the 2015 baseball season. He had previously played collegiately at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas and prior to that he played at Wasbash Valley College in Mount Carmel,Illinois.

“He was a great teammate,” said Wesley Drain a teammate of Castillo at both Wasbash and Grambling.

“He was never quite. He was always talking, joking and dancing,” Drain added.

“Hearing about the news about Castillo just broke me and Coach Cooper’s heart,” said Grambling Head Baseball Coach Davin Pierre.

“We have had to deal with a lot of difficult moments in our coaching tenure at Grambling State, but this is by far one of the toughest things we have had to deal with, “Pierre said.

Coach Pierre echoed Drains sentiments about the character of Castillo.

“Andres was a pure joy to Coach and he was even better person to be around. He had a personality that would capture a room and just bring life to everyone around him.

“You could walk into the clubhouse a bit down and Andres would be playing Spanish music and all of a sudden, you are partying and joking around with him,” Drain said.

Drain added, “He was a hit on campus, everybody loved him, he wore bright cloths and just created a spark whenever he was around.”

Drain’s father Adolphus recall several years ago when Castillo and several other Latino players attending Wasbash Junior College were stranded at the Atlanta airport during a snowstorm on their way back to school following Christmas break. Wesley had already made it back to Wasbash ahead of the storm, so Adolphus Drain braved the bad roads and went out to the airport to get Castillo and his teammates. They spent several days in the Drain home waiting on the weather to improve so they could continue their flight.

“He was a joy to have in my home. He would bless the dinner table in Spanish. I’m not sure what he was saying, but they sounded like the most beautiful prayers you would ever want to hear. I loved him like a son,” Adolphus Drain said.

Castillo had a promising future in major league baseball until an accident on the baseball field shattered his catching hand. When the motorcycle mishap occurred he was back home in Tampa enjoying life and bringing enjoyment to the people around him.

Wesley and his mom India, along with Coaches Pierre and Cooper represented the Grambling and Wasbash families at Castillo’s services.

“He was a polished 22 year old young man. He will be missed and he was loved by the Grambling family and his teammates. Andres Castillo will forever be a Grambling Tiger,” Pierre said.”

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

Morehouse Defeats Tuskegee 3-2 In Pitching Duel

By Michael March 18, 2017 0

The Morehouse College Maroon Tigers defeated Tuskegee University Golden Tigers 3-2 on Saturday. Tuskegee entered the game ranked number six in the HBCU Baseball Poll for the small school division. Tuskegee drops to 11-11 on the year, while Morehouse improved its record to 5-13.

The game was marred by poor defensive play by each team. But showcased outstanding pitching from both pitching staffs.

Daron Bowling, a junior from Cincinnati, Ohio started the game for Morehouse. The southpaw pitched 4 2/3 innings before leaving the game with a strained muscle in his pitching arm. Bowling surrendered two unearned runs on two hits. He struck out 6 batters.

Bowling left the game knotted up at 2-2. Anthony Dodd, a junior who attended Creekside High School in Fairburn, Georgia held Tuskegee at bay for 4 1/3 innings to pick up his first collegiate win . Dodd struck out five and gave up two hits.

After trailing most of the game 2-0, Tuskegee tied it in the 5th inning on a single by Ricky Green which drove in Doug Johnson. Green later scored on an error.

Trey Nelson was equally superb on the mound for Tuskegee. He pitched well enough to win. Nelson went the distance striking out 4 and giving up 2 earned runs. The winning run was scored on a throwing error by Tuskegee’s catcher, Matthew Reed in the eighth inning.

Tuskegee’s coach Reginald Hollins was not pleased with the defensive performance from his squad. Hollins said “it was a poorly played game on both sides.” Tuskegee committed four errors and Morehouse had three miscues.

“Pitching has been our strength all year and we got good pitching today,” said Coach Robert Mitchell of Morehouse.

The win puts Morehouse atop the SIAC standings. The two schools will play a double-hitter tomorrow at Perkerson Park in Atlanta.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round, Easier to obtain Than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights by Charles Steele, Jr.; and the host of Beyond the Law with Harold Michael Harvey. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.